[author]Story & photos Eve Jeffery[/author]
A cracked mirror that he took home with him from The Buttery Rehabilitation Centre is a constant reminder to a Wilsons Creek artist that you can create something beautiful from something broken.
Having managed to turn his life around, Marks S (anonymous and mischievous) has just opened his first art exhibition at Lu Lu’s Café in Mullumbimby.
‘I have been struggling with alcohol and drug addiction since I was 16,’ says Mark. ‘I tried every drug known to mankind. I am an addict but I was a successful addict. I was a real estate agent for ten years; I’ve built homes, had organic gardens; worked in oil exploration; been a window dresser and a hairdresser and I have travelled the world. I have had a very full life – in fact I have probably fit about three lives into one.’
At the age of 54, just before Christmas 2010, Mark entered The Buttery eight-month program after his life began to fall apart because of his addiction about six years ago. ‘I was a functioning addict but things in my life started to deteriorate. It was triggered by a lot of things. My father died, my best friend was murdered and I had a nervous breakdown. All three happened at once. That’s when my life just spiralled down.’ Mark says some very good friends who had been in the program told him he needed help. ‘They said it was now or never.’
Mark says that it was in the artroom at the rehab centre that he became inspired. ‘I found a piece of lino laying around in the artroom and asked the teacher what it was for. He gave me some tools and told me how to cut into it. He showed me the basics. Over Christmas the teachers were on holidays so I just kept teaching myself and when they came back I had all this stuff done and they were quite impressed.’
Mark, who had had no prior training in art, says he got one of his best tools in the artroom. ‘I found an old, cracked, broken mirror. I thought it would be good luck to have a broken mirror to roll ink on for my mono prints.’
Mark says he is very grateful to the centre for giving him the opportunity to move forward with his life. ‘The Buttery gave me a chance to emotionally and physically rest,’ he says. ‘It is the most holistic way of finding out why you’re an addict. It gives you time and a safe place to eat, sleep and live and start seeing what is bugging you deep down. It strips away all the layers until you get to the core issue of why you keep doing this over and over and over. When you understand that, then you can start healing yourself. It is a place with the most compassionate and professional people I have met. To put up with me for eight months, they must all be saints.’
Having completed the rehab program, Mark is now a resident of Wilsons Creek, where he has set up his verandah as his studio and scours local op-shops for frames that he restores and paints to surround the works.
Mark is currently displaying a selection of limited-edition prints at Lu Lu’s Café in Mullum in the hope of raising funds to buy more paper and ink and to donate back to the program that helped him so much. The prints are all signed ‘The Buttery’ and Mark says that 15 per cent from the sale of each art piece is being donated to the facility’s art room for materials for the use of all residents going through The Buttery program.
Mark is also grateful to Linda Rutledge, owner of Lu Lu’s, for the opportunity to hang his work. ‘I was very surprised that Linda was so open to my having my first exhibition here. I am very happy that I have been able to show my work in Mullum and get some exposure. It’s a fantastic opportunity.’
The exhibition will be on display for another two weeks. For more information, Mark can be contacted on 0432 482 174.